Benefits For Beginners


We will not be providing face-to-face advice or training for the foreseeable future. We will contact existing advice clients by phone. Our staff will continue to support our members and can be reached via telephone and email as usual.

We are working hard to move our training, where possible, to digital. For any queries, please contact our training team at [email protected]

We can only provide advice to people living in Northern Ireland. 

Helpline contact details:

Welfare Changes ring 0808 802 0020 or email [email protected]
Tax & Benefits ring 0800 988 2377 or email [email protected]
Business Debt ring 0800 083 8018 or email [email protected]
Debt Action ring 0800 028 1881 or email [email protected]
EU Settlement Scheme ring 0800 138 6545 or email [email protected]
For Historical Institutional Abuse advice and support call 02890 645919 email [email protected]


Benefits can either be means-tested or non-means-tested. Here is what these mean:

Means-tested Benefits

An assessment of your means (income and capital) determine your entitlement to these. If your income or capital is over a set threshold, you will not qualify, even if you meet all of the other requirements.

Therefore, income and capital must be sufficiently low to qualify for a means-tested benefit.

Non-Means-Tested Benefits

These do not involve a detailed assessment of means. You will qualify if you meet the eligibility criteria (such as being disabled or widowed) regardless of your income or capital.

Non-means tested benefits are further divided into contributory and non-contributory benefits.

  • Contributory

For contributory benefits, as well as meeting the eligibility criteria, you must have paid sufficient National Insurance Contributions (NICs) to qualify. These are called the ‘contribution conditions’.

  • Non-Contributory

You can qualify for non-contributory benefits as long as you meet the eligibility criteria regardless of the NICs you have made. Therefore, you do not have to satisfy contribution conditions to qualify.

Passported Benefits

Some benefits (including tax credits) act as a passport to other benefits. Therefore it is worthwhile claiming these benefits to become entitled to other benefits even if you do not receive any money from the original claim.

This can include such things as sight tests, dental treatment and hospital fares.

Benefits Advice

If you need advice on benefits you can find an adviser near you, contact the Independent Welfare Changes Helpline on 0808 802 0020 or contact own in-house Tax and Benefits Advisers on 0800 9882 377. 

Belfast City Council have a handy booklet online called Seniors Info (640KB). It includes contact details for organisations who can help you with further information.